ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - After months of speculation, Beto O’Rourke entered the presidential race Thursday, securing his jump from little-known El Paso congressman to potentially formidable White House contender.
“It was expected, and I’m pleased because I think the more folks that we have in the process, the better result we’re going to get at the other end,” said Wayne Haglund, attorney and self-proclaimed Democrat. “I have had the privilege of meeting Congressman O’Rourke; he’s very charismatic, he’s very articulate, and he’s interesting to listen to.”
Haglund said voters who are looking for experienced candidates could see O’Rourke as an appropriate candidate; the congressman served several terms in Congress and the Texas House of Representatives. That’s longer than President Barack Obama served in his own congressional career, Haglund pointed out.
“I think experience is a really good thing, and as I mentioned before, I’m anxious for Joe Biden to jump in as well, because I think that’s going to be good for the mix,” said Haglund.
O’Rourke’s grassroots charm and charisma carried him to a narrow loss against incumbent senator Ted Cruz in Nov. 2018, which may have swayed O’Rourke’s decision to run on the national stage.
“I’m not surprised, obviously we learned a lot about him during the race against Ted Cruz,” said Bob Flournoy, attorney and former Republican chairman in Angelina County. “He’s really open, he speaks a lot and speaks well, and we now know more about him than we did back at that time. I’m really not surprised that he would join the other crowd of socialists who are running."
Flournoy described O’Rourke about as “far left as Bernie Sanders” in terms of his political leaning, and pointed out that his announcement has divided the candidates more than ever before.
“He’s taken some mighty strong positions on things like the border, and even going so far as to say he’d like to tear down some of the walls we already have,” said Flournoy. “So, he’s, in my mind, a Bernie Sanders radical.”
A radical, Flournoy added, who has a lot of support among younger voters ("especially those who don’t know the difference between capitalism and socialism.” Flournoy pointed out.)
O’Rourke will have plenty of work distinguishing himself from a Democratic field of more than a dozen opponents. However, Texas native has raised record contributions and garnered endorsement of celebrities like Beyonce, Jim Carrey, and Ellen DeGeneres.
Since his announcement Thursday morning, O’Rourke has already garnered an endorsement from politicians in New York, Iowa, and Florida.